HARRISBURG – State Rep. Camille “Bud” George, D-74 of Houtzdale, urged Gov. Tom Corbett to reconsider some of the crippling measures outlined in the Governor’s first budget address.
“Governor Corbett’s proposed budget casts a dark shadow over the heads of the middle class,” George said. “He said today would be the ‘Day of Reckoning,’ for Pennsylvania. He’s right – unless you happen to be a big business with deep pockets.”
The proposed budget offers an array of cuts in education, government services, and programs that benefit middle class citizens,” George said. “Compounding the program cuts are tax breaks for big businesses, continued phase-out of the Capital Stock and Franchise Tax, and an adamant opposition to an extraction tax on Marcellus shale gas drillers.
“The Governor claims this is a ‘no new tax’ budget. What he fails to explain is that the tax burden is being shifted to local governments,” George said. “When school districts lose $550 million in state funding, where do you think the money will come from?”
The answer, George says, will be increased local property taxes to help balance school budgets.
“Corbett’s proposing a near 10 percent cut in school subsidies, which will eliminate almost $8 million from districts serving Clearfield County students,” George said. “For Clearfield Area School District, this means a $1.2 million decrease in funding, $1.1 million yanked from Philipsburg-Osceola, and over $750,000 from Curwensville School District.”
Coupled with cuts in K-12 education are significant funding decreases for state-owned or affiliated colleges and universities, including Penn State University and the University of Pittsburgh, as well as cuts to the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency.
“Between tuition increases and less grant money available, families are going to be paying a lot more to send their kids to college,” George said.
Also taking hits in the Governor’s proposed budget are the state Departments of Public Welfare and Community and Economic Development.
“We’re going to see a significant burden placed on those who truly need assistance,” George said. “Programs being cut or eliminated will only hurt those who need the help the most.”
The governor also called for ‘essential pruning’ of state programs.
“I will remind him that some things in Pennsylvania are worthy of investment, especially jobs, jobs and more jobs. Small businesses are the backbone of the economy. Programs in place to help citizens start up these small enterprises are necessary to help people achieve the ‘American Dream.’”
George also stressed the need for an extraction tax on Marcellus shale gas drilling.
“Much as the oil industry is linked to Texas, Governor Corbett wants Pennsylvania to be the nation’s centerpiece for natural gas,” Rp. George said. “However, without a responsible, competitive severance tax, our local governments are going to be paying for the costs linked to this under-regulated industry for decades to come.”
ep. George added that despite the Governor’s refusal to tax Marcellus shale gas producers, a majority of Pennsylvanians favor doing so. What people will not accept, he says, will be the cuts in services and programs that will cripple working families in the state.
“This budget was not a surprise – the Governor warned us early on about his views,” George said. “I only worry that people have not yet realized the ramifications and consequences of the proposed cuts.”